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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sí, se puede!

There have been many important things which have happened at this General Convention in Anaheim: Resolutions, Committee meetings, Hearings, Legislative Debates, Eucharists, Conferences, Relationships, Community building, Reunions - even Def Poetry Slams.

Even so, none has been as important as today's Prayer Vigil and March in support of the workers at Disney.

We gathered at the plaza at the Katella Ave. entrance to the Convention Center where we waited for some of the marchers who were protesting at one of the nearby Disney hotels before joining us.

While we waited, some of the bishops of the church also gathered with us, including Bishops Doug Theuner, Gene Robinson, Mark Beckwith, Barbara Harris, Jon Bruno, Chet Talton, Greg Rickel, and several others.

Before the march began, Bishop Barbara addressed the crowd, encouraging them in their struggle. Then, Bishop Gene got up and the crowd roared its approval.

Turns out, EVERYONE knows Bishop Gene. His words were translated by Alma, the event organizer, who spoke beautifully in Spanish and flawlessly in English.

Bishop Gene spoke about "America the Beautiful," how much work it takes takes to make her beautiful and how unfairly the workers who make her beautiful are treated.

He said as beautiful as America is, there is a great deal of ugliness and corruption in her closets, and that it was time to open the closet doors and clean them out.

The crowd applauded its agreement.

We said some prayers (BTW, that man in the blue shirt standing next to Bishop Barbara, also in blue is MY bishop, Mark Beckwith. I was so proud of him and his commitment to and passion for justice, I could have just burst) and then it was off to Katella Ave and onto Harbor Blvd to deliver thousands of signed petitions to the Disney officials who were waiting for us.

Here's the thing: In the history of Anaheim, no street has EVER been blocked off for a Protest March.

Ever, that is, until today.

One entire side of Harbor Blvd. was filled with marchers.

We were, as Alma had instructed us to be - dignified and beautiful.

And, noisy.

I wish I had taken a picture of the man who had a drum but had, apparently, forgotten his drum sticks. So, he used two empty plastic water bottles and pounded out the rhythm as we chanted:

Sí, se puede!
(Yes, it can be done.)

It is, of course, the chant used by Cesar Chavez during his protest rallies and marches which was 'borrowed' by the Obama campaign, translated instead to "Yes, we can."

We marched for about two blocks to the entrance at Disney World, where a handful of those of us who were clergy were invited to walk into the gate to meet with "Jim" an official representative of Disney.

A local clergy woman who was part of the Episcopal Economic Justice Network handed the thousands of signed protests to him and Bishop Gene told him that if the demands of the workers were not met and they planned a boycott of Disney, that we would use our religious networks to assist them in their boycott until the event organizers told us to stop.

Jim was very somber and respectful, thanking us for our concern and promising to take the petitions to the Disney executive officers.

It was a very powerful moment. There was the church - speaking truth to power in the name of the people.

Yes. I wept. Again. At least this time, Louise Brooks wasn't around to catch me being all girly-burbly on video.

There were a few more rousing speeches from Bishops Barbara and Gene and then a local priest (I'm so sorry I didn't get his name), retold the story of David and Goliath to the eager crowd, who listened attentively.

He compared Disney to Goliath and the workers to David and told the people that God would chose the least among them to lead them to justice.

He got them to chant "The people. United. Will never be defeated."

And then he told them about David's anointing for God's calling and announced to them that the clergy would pass among them to anoint them for their calling to do justice.

Then, they chanted, "The people. Anointed. Will never be defeated."

Can I just say? Wow! I mean, Wow!

At first, the clergy stood into lines, waiting for people to come. It felt awkward and wrong to me, so I asked a sister clergy, Altagracia Perez, to anoint me.

After she anointed my forehead, I felt empowered to venture out into the crowd with my little plastic cup filled with cotton balls that had been saturated with Holy Oil.

I can not put into words what it felt like to have people call to me, "Madre, Madre. Unteme! Unteme!"

People were pulling on my blouse. I hardly knew where to turn next, but I took my time, looking deep into the eyes of each person - adult women, men and little children - and anointed them in the name of the One who created them, the One who sustains them and the One who guides their feet into the path of justice and peace.

"Gracias estan a dios," they said softly, thankfully.

Funny how that works. I anointed them, but I was the one who was blessed.

And, transformed.

And, will never be the same.

That's what happens whenever I encounter the living Christ in others.

Clearly, this church has moved beyond B033 and into a fuller understanding of our mission and ministry.

Suddenly, I can't wait to get home, roll up my sleeves, and get to work. Even in the oh-so comfortable affluent suburban Mayberry USA town where I live and move and make my being.

I think things are going to get just a little less comfortable - all in the name of the mission and ministry of The Living Christ.

Sí, se puede!


motheramelia said...

Elizabeth, thank you for your moving report. I broke into tears while reading it. I too feel most anointed when I encounter Christ in those I serve.

Glenda de Kruif said...

Dear Elizabeth

Once again you have brought tears to my eyes and reminded me once again what we have been put on this earth to do! Thank you.

Glenda de Kruif

David said...

what an incredible 24 hours

first the HOB surprises us all wondefully, by embodying just how powerfully the Holy Spirit is working among us

then, less than 24 hours later She's got the Anglican Church out there on the front lines with the disenfranchized- just where we should be!

Elizabeth thank-you so very much for sharing this. you folks were kick-ass radiant!

Am I proud of you guys- you bet!
Am I grateful for your collective witness out there yesterday- BIG TIME!

The Church, THANK GOD is forever changed, and one breathless step closer to her truest calling because of Anaheim. I might even suggest that July 13 could become a minor feast day- a celebration and a reminder of the Holy Spirit's passionate longing and call to us to be the Church God needs us to be.

Ain't no one going to turn us 'round! No! Ain't no one going to turn us 'round!


the cajun said...

This gave me chills and brought tears. Powerful stuff, indeed.

Ann said...

Yes- probably the most important work we have done.

Doug said...


Karen said...

Holy Wow! Again, I am moved to tears by your words and the images they call forth as you describe yesterday's march & ministry to /of the workers at Disney.

When some say that God is unimportant in our life today; when faith is seen as antiquated and passe, I believe I will call forth the moments you describe and inquire whether or not we might wish to consider if in that moment & perhaps this one too, we were not in the presence of the Holy.

Bless you for being there for all of us.

Allie said...

I agree, it was incredible, I just wish more comvention attendees has shown up.

The "local" priest is Henry Atkins, the former chaplain to Rutgers, who was invited by Jon Bruno to work in the diocese of LA a few years ago.

Ormonde Plater said...

Oui, on peut!

James said...

"Holy wow" is correct. What a powerful and holy post.

whiteycat4104 said...

What a blessing this was! I, too, am moved to tears by your account. Truly the last 48 hours are the miracle of 2009. I am so PROUD to be an Episcopalian!!! My church has become real by going out on the front lines whether in the HOB, HOD or on the streets of Anaheim.

DeanB said...

I'm crying a little too

When you wrote yesterday that you hoped you would be found worthy, I was 99% confident you would. I think that post proves you were.

Fr Craig said...

thanks EK - tears rolling down...

Barbi Click said...

I continue to be awed and amazed and absolutely wowed. This only adds to that, Elizabeth. I am humbled to be a part of this greatness. I am thrilled to be a part of this opportunity in mission. What work we have to do!!!!! and what excitement to be able to finally begin the work!!!!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Henry is a 'local' priest and one who leads the Episcopal Economic Justice group here, but the one who led us in the chant was a Hispanic man from, I think, Garden Grove, CA. The 'local' priest who handed the petitions to "Jim" from Disney was a woman. Unfortunately, I couldn't read name tags as fast as their bearers were moving.

it's margaret said...

(That's western for alleluia!)

JayV said...

Thanks, Elizabeth.

Are GC delegates staying in some of these hotels? Is the Anaheim convention center run by Disney? Any chance of GC making an official statement of support. A lot of these kinds of economic justice and workers rights actions hinge on publicity.

Not that I think it would happen, but if TEC's call for mission and justice means anything, those that plan any TEC meetings nationwide should also vet the local facilities, including how the workers there are treated (with the dignity and respect of a living wage), yes?

WilliamK said...

Yes, a wonderful report on a wonderful event! I was deeply moved by your account of the anointing, and that wonderful slogan, "The people, anointed, will never be defeated."

I did find myself wondering... were any of the bishops who took part "conservative" on The Issue? Or were all of those bishops too busy with other things to show their support for exploited and oppressed workers?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JayV - Hmmmm . . . these were all Disney employees who have been working w/o a contract for over a year now. . . .I think TEC thinks it made a statement by how many of us were there. ;~D Subtlety is our middle name.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

If there were any conservative bishops present, they weren't in their purple shirts.

memcats said...

Wish I had been there! Thanks to you, Elizabeth, and all the other clergy/Bishops who stood with you. I bet you can get a whole bunch of sermons out of this!!

Malinda said...

That Jesus, a whole convention center full of Episcopalians and he shows up in the face and words of an Hispanic child's blessing in a protest march outside the walls! Got to love that man!

Jane R said...

Thank you.

Mary Beth said...

Tremendous. I have goosebumps on my goosebumps.

Kirstin said...

Thought I'd commented earlier; came back to read this post again and say, thank you.